Okkervil River, Stars Too Small to Use (Jound)

Texas Platters

Record Reviews

Okkervil River

Stars Too Small to Use (Jound)

In this age of syrupy-sensitive singer-songwriters and prettified cookie-cutter country superstars, we tend to forget that folk and country music used to be creepy -- scary even. Austin trio Okkervil River remind us of this fact, as the group's visceral folk music kidnaps Will Oldham and Michael Gira and forces them on a midnight excursion to exhume the graves of Leadbelly and Nick Drake. The frantic avant-country of "Kathy Keller" heightens the effect of the dour and plodding "The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion," and from there the mood descends. The lyrical allusions and phrases that punch through the wall of acoustic speculation are harsh and puzzling, abrasive and bracing. There's lots of smarts in these songs. The only drawback is that, like the Palace contingent, however undeniable the passion and intelligence behind the songs, it's not always the most enjoyable music to listen to -- not because it's too scary, but because the commendable ideas that build the songs, exemplified in the breakdown at the end of "For the Captain," are often more ambition than realization. Stars Too Small to Use, however, is a debut that doesn't allow for a passive listen -- and there's certainly no abundance of that in folk music these days.


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Quiet Company
On Corners & Shapes (Record Review)

Rachel Rascoe, Feb. 8, 2019

Texas Platters
Falling (Record Review)

Rachel Rascoe, Feb. 8, 2019

More by Christopher Hess
Phases & Stages
Rob Halverson
Second Whirled (Record Review)

Feb. 4, 2005

Phases and Stages
Stratford 4
Love and Distortion (Record Review)

March 14, 2003


Okkervil River, Stars Too Small to Use

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle